"The Farthest" - Words and Music written by Shelley Washington
Commissioned by Dianne Berkun Menaker for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus "Silent Voices: If You Listen", April 2018. Performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus accompanied by members of the ICE Ensemble.
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I wanted to write a piece that would comment on the desires that many young people currently share; wants that span the personal “when I grow up...” to the public “in the future, we...” I also wanted my piece to ring true for any person during the era that they were young - their dreams for the future, taking risks in hopes of stepping closer to their goals, and forming alliances against adversaries. We as people have always wanted to be some form of good, and for our futures to be brighter than our present. Individuals’ belief of what constitutes goodness has the power to write laws, create religions, and drive culture. This desire to be personally better, to intentionally grow into our collective best, has steered the rise and fall of every empire. The Farthest is intended to be sung by the voices of now as a call both forward and backwards in time; a shout of gratitude back to those who challenged the wrongs of their time, and a call forward to all listeners to never give up hope, and to strive for being their best.
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Silent Voices is a multimedia, multi-composer, and multi-year series of concert works with spoken word conceived, produced and performed by Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Silent Voices amplifies the voices of those silenced or marginalized in our communities and harnesses the power of young people to be instruments of change. The Chorus has commissioned a dynamic group of innovative artists to interpret rich personal stories and historical narratives exploring contemporary themes of identity, orientation, status, boundaries, and belonging.
If You Listen, the second installment in the Silent Voices series, builds on the success of its 2017 premiere at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House, co-commissioned with Brooklyn Academy of Music, and WQXR, New York. In Silent Voices: If You Listen, eight composers, all women, collaborate with the choristers in confronting the challenges of division and categorization, racism, sexism, social and economic disparity, immigration, our environment, and threats to our understanding of truth, as we prepare to move towards a more inclusive and compassionate vision of the future. Featured composers include Julia Adolphe, Olga Bell, Anna Clyne, Paola Prestini, Toshi Reagon, Shaina Taub, Shelley Washington, Bora Yoon.